Starting in 2017, microbeads, tiny plastic particles used in many personal-care products, will be phased out. These tiny plastic particles don't dissolve and end up polluting our oceans. The beads are easily mistaken by marine life as food, working their way up the food chain.
But more data is starting to show that synthetic apparel is also to blame. Patagonia teamed up with researchers from UCSB and studied the effect of microfibers - tiny bits of nylon and polyester that synthetic apparel is made up of - on our oceans.
The results showed that the majority of the microfiber pollution comes from washing synthetic clothes that releases fibers into our wastewater and ends up in our oceans. One Florida group found that 82% of all plastic found on their beaches was from microfibers, and only 7% were from microbeads.
"It would be really great if the washing machine companies would get on board and come up with a filter to trap these microfibers," Caitlin Wessel of NOAA Marine Debris Program said. "I think there's a big push right now — nobody really disagrees that marine debris is an issue that needs to be addressed."
Because much of the knowledge in this area is still yet to be discovered, here's what the UCSB research study suggested:
○ Effects of garment construction, washing machine type and fabric composition
○ Use of recycled polyester and bio-based synthetic textiles
○ Possibility of re-incorporating fibers shed in consumer washing phase in garment
○ Practicality and economic feasibility of attaching a filter on the output pipe of
○ Effects of water temperature, cycle length, and other washing characteristics
Commercial and household laundry:
○ Factors influencing consumers to wash garments less frequently, switch to frontload
washing machines, and take other precautionary measures to reduce
microsynthetic fiber shedding
○ Detergent additives that reduce fiber breakage
○ Ways for consumers to dispose of fibers responsibly